Dear Big Daddy,
In the past several weeks I have visited with a Jewish legislator, a Catholic legislator and a liberal Protestant legislator – all of whom reject the Jesus of Scripture. It is apparent too that these lost (spiritually speaking) legislators have been made to feel superior to me in their progressive religious tolerance. There are woeful alternatives to the gravity of the Word of God in the Capitol.
– Ralph Drollinger
Dear Even Bigger Daddy,
This whole religion thing doesn't need to turn into a big kerfuffle. All we need to do is what we would do in every other area of life and policy – line up all the religions and just choose the one that has the most evidence to back it up … er, uh … um … well this is … awkward …
Restart: We're hardly from the same generation, Reverend, but we do have a couple of things in chronological common. We both grew up in a nation that considered itself not only unquestioningly Christian, but where Protestantism was the unchallenged dominant brand. People today may wonder that it was an issue that JFK was Catholic, but in my little corner of Texas growing up, I had relatives who used words like "papist" and "popery." Nowadays those may sound like things you learn to make by watching Martha Stewart, but once upon a backwater, they were serious business.
Now religion is having a pretty good few years in this country. How do I know? Because of the deafening chorus of folks saying how heathenistic things have gotten.
But part of the reason religions have been doing so well is due to product diversification. Religion used to be something handed down by Mommy and Daddy, but modern congregants are trying on religions the way they might try out a new haircut or, if you believe some evangelicals, a sexual orientation. Anyhow, Pew says that half of the people in the United States identify with a different religion than the one they grew up with. Which means people are choosing their God with eyes wide open, as adults, rather than going through life mouthing a few words they learned at an age when they thought of the religious calendar mainly in terms of what types of candy they got.
But it also means that religions are competing in a messy marketplace of ideas, just like say, polka music or astrophysics. Buck up, because evangelicals such as yourself are doing pretty well – both grumpy Old Testament God and party-tricks-with-wine New Testament God are selling in most major markets.
Though vaguely cultish strange underwear God is doing really well, too. Catholic God is making out like gangbusters, especially with churches in California doing services in Latin's colloquial cousin. And quite a few evangelicals under 30 are getting cozy with plays bass, like tattoos and cares about global warming God.
In other words, either most people disagree with your "only one way to God" position, or they've chosen a "one way" that differs from yours. Feel free to scold those who don't agree with you – and expect them to behave the way most adults do when scolded. Maybe the gravity of the word of God pulls a little harder on you because you're 7'2" and weigh about two Jesuses. You need to find a way to connect to those who lack your certainty. Because at 51 percent of the nation, Protestants are like white folks in California: facing no longer being a majority.
For most folks, doubt and change are part of the religious experience. If you were hoping to get the Big Daddy who said "Anyone who thinks all this is an accident has got to be some kind of stupid," well he's not here anymore. But I'm not giving you "Who knows, who cares, why bother?" deathbed Big Daddy either.
Instead, you're getting the Big Daddy who thinks he understands why people gravitate toward religion – and the impediments in their way. There are two main things that most people are trying to get from faith. One is help reaching a desirable afterlife destination, be it clouds and feathers, half a gross of virgins, or just avoiding being reborn as a politician. But I'd be willing to bet that the folks who really stick with their religion are the ones who find it helps with the here-on-Earth.
Besides, I've been kicking around the afterlife for a couple decades now, and I gotta say, when the rest of y'all get here and the secrets of the universe are revealed, both Democrats and Christians are in for a big surprise. Because it really is elephants all the way down.